According to the Immunization and Naturalization Service, there were 8.7 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. in 2003. Conservative estimates maintain that number climbs around 500,000 each year. That would put the estimate for 2007 somewhere around 10.7 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. Most officials believe those estimates are on the low end. In 2004, Senator John McCain ® of Arizona stated that, “According to the US Border Patrol apprehension statistics, almost four million people crossed our borders illegally in 2002”. The U.S. Border Patrol in Tucson, Arizona estimated the total a bit closer to 15 million in 2004. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, nearly 70% of illegal entrants to this country come directly from Mexico. Whether it is 10 million or 20 million, clearly our nation is experiencing a mass migration of foreigners that needs to be addressed by and paid for by the nation as a whole.
Currently around 75% of the illegal immigrants in the U.S. live in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Unfortunately, this leaves these states to bear most of the financial burden which include state welfare assistance in the form of food stamps, WIC and cash assistance, but it does not stop there. These Border States are also supposed to pay for trips to the emergency room, the costs associated with crimes, and education while collecting very little in the way of taxes.
Arizonans fork out nearly $1.3 billion annually to pay for all of the costs incurred from illegal immigration; around $810 million for education, $400 million for health care related expenses, $80 million in incarceration costs, and the remainder in welfare benefits. All of this is required while Arizona runs a $500 million deficit annually.
Most of the costs associated with illegal immigration that fall on the Border States are incurred through unfunded Federal mandates. This means the Federal government requires that states comply with expensive federal regulations without providing the resources to pay for them. This leaves the Border States scrambling to maintain compliance with limited budgets which should be spent on their own taxpayers.
For instance, it is Federal law that every emergency room in this country serve whoever walks through the door whether they can pay for the service or not. This includes illegal aliens who often come to the emergency room for something as basic as an ear infection which costs both the hospital and the taxpayer. The Tucson Medical Center and University Medical Center located in Tucson, Arizona bear around $1 million dollars each in uncompensated costs for treating illegal immigrants annually. Not only do taxpayers suffer from the unfunded mandates, businesses do as well.
As for the quality of education in Arizona, the state ranks 50 out of all U.S. states. That would be dead last.
In order to appease the immigration Gods, Arizonans spent around $400 per ESL student annually to help them learn English. However, in 2007 that will all change. Parents of ESL students sued the state over a period of 15 years to raise that amount to closer to $1200 per student. They cited studies that the $400 was an inadequate amount to teach their children English. The state granted their request and now Arizonans will shell out an additional $80 million per year to help Spanish speakers learn English.
The $890 million spent on ESL students is for additional teachers, classrooms, books and supplies, mandatory bilingual education for teachers, and additional tutoring. That’s $890 million not going to the education of the legal citizens living in Arizona. That’s nearly $1000 annually for each legal Arizona household to bear in taxes to pay for the education of illegal immigrants.
Aside from the monetary costs from ESL students, the education of English speakers is also suffering. Even as money flows to teaching ESL students English instead of raising the quality of education in Math, Science and Reading for all students; English speaking students must occasionally endure a lower level of academics in the classroom because of lack of understanding from the ESL students. Instead of focusing on raising the bar for English speakers, the teacher must focus on leveling the playing field for the ESL students which, in Arizona, more often than not make up more than half of the classroom population. In some districts, such as TUSD, which have a high population of Spanish speakers and illegal immigrants, ESL student percentages in the classroom can be as high as 90%.
Arizonans started fighting back with the 2006 anti-immigration ballot propositions that passed with overwhelming majorities. Proposition 103 reaffirmed that English is to be the official language of Arizona. This proposition seems to be purely symbolic as it will not change the language issue in the state; schools will still be required to teach ESL students, state and business pamphlets will still be printed in both English and Spanish, and you will still have to “Press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish” when calling businesses and government offices.
Proposition 100 denies bail to undocumented immigrants charged with felonies. Proposition 102 prohibits undocumented immigrants from being awarded punitive damages in any civil lawsuit filed in the state and Proposition 300 prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state tuition, financial assistance or access to state-subsidized childcare and family literacy programs. Whether these ballots will stand or be declared unconstitutional, I can already hear the whooshing sound of the money-sucking vacuum starting to fade a little.